The gutsy Seattle lawyer and Poker Players Alliance member Lee Rousso has had his legal bid to overturn state bans on internet gambling thrown out by the Washington State Supreme Court.
On Wednesday the court unanimously supported two lower court decisions which ruled that the state's draconian bans on internet gambling did not violate the federal commerce clause of the US Constitution.
Justice Richard Sanders wrote the 9-0 opinion which effectively shot down Rousso's argument that the state law put an impermissible burden on interstate and international commerce.
Justice Sanders wrote: "The question before this court is not whether Internet gambling, including playing poker on-line, should be illegal. That determination is reserved to the legislature, and the legislature addressed the issue by enacting and amending RCW 9.46.240, which criminalizes the knowing transmission and reception of gambling information by various means, including use of the Internet.
"Since sending and receiving gambling information is illegal, Internet gambling in the state of Washington is effectively banned. It is not the role of the judiciary to second-guess the wisdom of the legislature, which enacted this ban. The court has no authority to conduct its own balancing of the pros and cons stemming from banning, regulating, or openly permitting Internet gambling."
Sanders' ruling then goes into a more detailed analysis of what he called the "dormant commerce clause" and discusses other federal legislation including the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 and the Wire Act of 1961. He found that Congress did not delegate regulation of interstate internet gambling.
Sanders also asked whether the state ban – RCW 126.96.36.199 – discriminated "against interstate commerce in favor of in-state economic interests" and he found it did not. He wrote that the law "equally prohibits Internet gambling regardless of whether the person or entity hosting the game is located in Washington, another state, or another country."
Sanders said the state also can apply different rules to different kinds of businesses. He rejected other claims that the ban favoured intrastate land gambling, saying the ban affects all business' ability to transmit bets electronically (with the ban exempting horseracing, which Sanders' footnote says is not treated as gambling under the state statute and has different treatment under federal law).
The Poker Players Alliance issued a statement regarding the court's finding, saying: "We are extremely disappointed in the State Supreme Court's ruling given the clear evidence that the state legislature never sought to regulate Internet poker as it does in-state bricks and mortar card rooms and internet horse racing, but instead simply banned internet poker and, even worse, criminalized the players.
"This law is still a mistake, and we will continue to fight to have it overturned."
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